Becoming a successful entrepreneur is rarely done on one’s own.
Oftentimes, it’s strategic partnerships that enables someone to get to a level they wouldn’t ever been able to by themselves. This is true for many others and it’s also true for me. Today, I’m going to share with you three distinctive individuals that have made my success so far achievable.
Tom Ewer from Leaving Work Behind
I mentioned in my recent interview that Leaving Work Behind was the first website that I came upon after I started my search for alternative employment. If it wasn’t for Tom, his course and his job board subscription service, I woudn’t be where I’m at.
I’m very fortunate that he took a chance on me and hired me for my first paid gig and that he’s been generous with his time to be an unofficial mentor to me. He’s nicely taught me how to become a better writer for the web, while pushing me to figure things out on my own. He could have easily given me an answer, but he knew by learning how to find the answer, I was increasing my skillset. I needed this at the time and am thankful for his approach.
He also offered words of encouragement, which was very timely in hindsight. I still have his exact words saved and reflect on them often:
“You may be a bit of a novice, but you’ve got all the fundamental skills to be an excellent freelance blogger. That’s why I keep coming back to you.”
Carrie Smith from Careful Cents
I came across Carrie’s site from Tom’s course and am so lucky I did! I made my way around Careful Cents and signed up for her weekly newsletter and private Facebook group. Both have been inspirational and helpful to me as I’ve continued on my journey. You need to be able to talk with others about the unique challenges that come with building a freelance business. Her community is awesome for that – plus it’s free to join!
I also reached out to Carrie to see if she’d take me on as a mentoring pro bono case. My timing was perfect – she was just breaking into coaching and the arrangement would benefit us both. I’m now proud to say that I pay her and she’s worth every penny!
Carrie is one smart cookie! She comes with an accounting background and we were introduced just after she hit her first anniversary as a full-time solopreneur. She’s learned a ton in her last few years in the freelance writing business and has been super generous in passing her lessons (learned the hard way) onto me.
I feel like reaching out to her has expedited my success tenfold, as opposed to if I was trying to do everything on my own. I urge you to align yourself with a coach, mentor, what-have-you ASAP in your freelance business. It’s never too early, as they’ll help you avoid a lot of costly mistakes (both in time and money, which are equally important)!
Brennan Dunn from Double Your Freelancing Rate
I’ve only “known” Brennan for a couple of months now, but he is honestly one of the most creative and smartest webpreneurs I’ve encountered so far. He’s got so much going on – it’s crazy!
I was introduced to Brennan through Sophie Lizard when they teamed up to offer a webinar. Brennan’s great in that everything he does, he likes to provide immense value. He really wants to see others succeed and get paid what they’re worth.
I ended up reaching out to Brennan after starting his course (which was awesome!) and we corresponded a bit back and forth. I had an inkling that he was having trouble keeping up with his inbox and I wanted to get into doing virtual assistant work.
I boldly told him he needed to hire me and backed up my claim with what I could offer him. To my complete surprise he said YES! We’ve been working together now for about a month or so and it’s been a great progression.
Part of my goal in working with Brennan was to make a regular paycheck. My other goal was to get exposed to the inner workings of a webpreneur’s business. I have not been disappointed so far!
3 Tips to Help You Succeed
When approaching others further along the path than you for a strategic partnership, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Here are my three best tips to increase your odds of success.
1. Never Take Without Giving in Return
When asking someone to mentor you pro bono, for their time to answer questions (especially ongoing) or for a favor, it’s important that you’re conscious of the fact that they are doing YOU a solid. It’s imperative that you need to be able to offer something in return.
You might not be able to trade favor for favor, but there are many ways that you can give back. You could pay them for their time, but if you’re just getting started you might not be able to afford to right away. Like my experience with Carrie though, you could try to do so at some point in the future. I think this is something that we both expected to happen at some point and I’m glad to be paying her now for her time.
You could offer to take something off their plate. This is part of the arrangement that Brennan and I have been able to work out. I’m also lucky to be getting paid in addition to learning from him.
You could promote their business. I try to do this with all three of the above individuals (this article is a great example). It’s always authentic and hopefully never pushy. I try to retweet their content, promote them via my blog and of course have no qualms about sharing their services that have helped me to become successful. I’m not (at this time;-) in an affiliate relationship with any of them. I’ve gotten a ton of value though already, so this isn’t really necessary.
I also trust the advice that they offer me. If they have an affiliate relationship with a product or service provider that they believe in, I have no qualms purchasing from their links. If I’m going to purchase it anyway, of course I’d like to see them benefit from it. Some examples of this are the Karma wifi hotspot I purchased and FreshBooks accounting service I’m subscribed to (these are both MY affiliate links;-).
2. Be Bold, but Polite
No one owes you anything. When I approached all of these individuals, I like to think that I was respectful of their time and thankful for the fact that they replied to me at all.
I was bold in reaching out and I find that for me this is easier to do online (through an email), than through a phone call or direct meeting with someone. Another benefit of the web! Of course, this also makes it easy for them to ignore me (if they had so chosen) – lucky for me that wasn’t the case.
There are others that I’ve reached out to, that haven’t replied. That’s okay – I don’t take it personally. People are busy and you can’t help everyone that contacts you. We all only have those same 24 hours in the day!
3. Pay It Forward
Since I’ve been fortunate to have gotten a positive response when I’ve reached out to these three (and others), I try to pay it forward when I can. I’m now at the point where people are reaching out to me – this feels amazing BTW!
When they do, I try to thoughtfully consider if I can fulfill their requests. Simon, from this site, saw the post that I wrote on Leaving Work Behind for example and asked to interview me. This was kind of a no-brainer for me, because a) it feels great when someone wants to interview you and b) it’s exposure for me!
Others have asked me questions or for advice and I’ve tried to help when I can. I try to always respond – I’m realistic that this might not always be the case as I continue to grow my business, but I hope it is!
I’ve gotten requests due to my contribution to the Huffington Post to use stats or promote certain things and I’ve politely declined. Part of my relationship with them is to use it as a platform for financial education, not promoting products or services. It doesn’t mean I have to be rude about it though!
I think it’s a good idea to reach out to others further along the path than you. People are meant to work together and you’ll probably get so much further than if you try to go at it alone. Plus, generally people like to help others succeed if they can.
Start reaching out to others in your niche/business to see where that gets you. Secure a mentor, build relationships and see how you can benefit one another. Don’t forget to offer something in return when you can, to be bold, but polite and to pay it forward when the opportunity presents itself!
Do you have any tips to add when approaching others online?
“Gina Horkey is a freelance writer, with a background in finance. She’s passionate about designing a flexible lifestyle suited to meet the needs of her young family of four and hopes to inspire others to do the same. Please stop by Horkey HandBook and say hello and/or connect with her on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.”